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Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Pete writes

We're soft pedaling downwind towards Cape Town at about 2kts, the main is down, two headsails are up and poled out. I've just come up on watch, the breeze is soft and perhaps a little crisp for this time of year. The sky is completely clear down to the horizon except for a low patch of cloud out over the port quarter, the moon is not up yet so the stars are brilliant. Orion is about 40 degs high on the port beam and the Southern Cross has not long risen off the starboard bow, we now have a little over 100 mls to the Cape.
Sitting in the cockpit just now I realized there are very few of the stars up there that I could name now. When Jeanne and I sailed across the Atlantic and Pacific about 30 years ago, I would have known a lot of stars, as navigation was by sextant. The stars I knew then were those 1st magnitude stars which would be visible with the horizon at dawn and dusk, in the area we were sailing. I knew nothing of their history or which constellation they belonged to. To me then they were just a signpost, something I used daily to work out the boat's position, handy but of no real interest.
Recently, as I had run out of good books Alex gave me one of his secreted specials to read. Its called "Fabric of the Cosmos" by Brian Greene. The author is Prof of Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University but don't let that put you off, he talks in easy to read layman's language using metaphors we can relate to. His book is a history and explanation of the universe from the early thinkers, Galileo, Descartes, Newton to Einstein and on to the present day. It's brilliant stuff and as much of it is about philosophy as physics. I'm about half way through the book now but I've left it alone for the last week as you need to devote time to get your head around the concepts of space and time especially when he is moving onto the idea of a 10 dimensional space/time i.e. something can be located with its time in a 9 dimensional space and I'm just lost for time with all the hand steering we're doing at the moment...still I look up at the stars now and wonder.
Now onto the literary segment. Our HF radio has died so no BBC World Service, I left home without my cds so none of my favorite music or world news. Good books preserve sanity and give an escape at this stage.
A couple of the books I really appreciated were, The Kite Flyer by Khaled Hosseni about Afghanistan under the Taliban; Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith a well told spy thriller and Woodlands by Thomas Hardy an excellent novel of English country life written in the 1880's.
The woodlanders was a step back in time, how's this for the beginning of chapt.4.
"There was now a distinct manifestation of morning in the air, and presently the bleared white visage of a sunless winter day emerged like a dead-born child." The weather hasn't changed but I don't think you could use a metaphor like that now, they were obviously more used to early childhood deaths at that time. Here's another little gem, a young girl has returned to her parent's house in a small village after several years at an elite boarding school, she has just finished a walk around the house and grounds that she grew up in. "Having concluded her perambulation of this now uselessly commodious edifice, Grace began to feel that she had come a long journey since the morning; and when her father had been up himself, as well as his wife, to see that her room was comfortable and the fire burning, she prepared to retire for the night."
They don't write them like that any more. Try teaching this book to second form English Lit. Cheers Pete.

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Opposite ends...

Twin poling rather slowly towards the barn door. I've just gybed us - a welter of sheets, downhauls, topping lifts, strops and the works, a difficult manoeuvre with Berri's current set-up but I think we can make some mods in CT. One armed paperhanger is close. Looks as if I might have to go out and reverse it all - let the 10 minute rule apply. Glorious night out there.

Pete is a sparkling clean person and he washes his clothes. Me, I kind of like the foetids so I tend just to wring them through and it doesn't use as much water but it does catch up eventually. I've been preparing a washing bag of interesting feral colonies in varied technicolor (the colonies - the bag is black plastic to keep them in the dark) and I'm hoping Derek the washing inspector in the CT customs shed doesn't discover the second last non extinct pair of breeding Barking Toads in the bag - I don't want to have to wear it all until they breed in two years time and be inspected daily by Clive the biologist. And I hate to think what is occurring inside the bag as the colonies mix and match.

Yesterday's airing for the neuronic trio led to the thought that there can't be too many people alive who have been to the opposite ends of mainland America - and I bet there aren't too many who have stood on the Greenwich Meridian at the Observatory (51 N 00 E)and been able to say that they stood at the exact opposite end of the earth a few months earlier, on the international date line east of NZ (51 S 180 E) near the Antipodes Islands. And I may well be the only person around who can claim both. But an interesting possibility for a roomful of people. And another one - the opposite end to the Amchitka passage through the Aleutians into the Bering Sea and on the date line is only about 3000 miles south west of here on the Greenwich meridian. We nearly crossed that one last time around. Across Peel Sound from that northern point of America is Strzelezki Harbour. I wonder whether that is the same Strzelezki that named the mountain in Australia.
Idle nonsense.